A pair of Siberian huskies who got loose last month and killed several chickens were spared from humane euthanization on Tuesday after the Oak Bluffs selectmen agreed to instead ban one of the dogs from town and ordered the other one housed in a secure pen made of concrete and chain-link fence.
Dozens of dog lovers turned out at the start of the selectmen’s meeting to hear the fate of Storm and Mussa, who have gotten loose on several occasions and repeatedly killed chickens. The most recent incident occurring on August 30 at an Oak Bluffs home off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
Storm, who is owned by Ken and Nina Garde of Vineyard Haven, is the father of Mussa, owned by West Tisbury resident Rebecca Garde. Storm, who has a longer history of getting loose and killing chickens, was permanently banned from Tisbury by order of the town selectmen last month. Just days after selectmen made their decision, Storm was loose again — this time along with Mussa. The dogs killed four chickens on Chase Road.
Following that attack, Mr. Garde said he planned to take Storm off-Island to a husky rescue organization in Connecticut. But both Storm and Mussa were instead left at an Oak Bluffs home with a friend of the family. The dogs then got loose and killed at least 15 chickens at the farm of Elisha Smith, and were later found stalking livestock at another farm.
At the start of Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting — with the possibility looming that the board could order one or both of the animals put down — chairman Ronald DiOrio quickly spoke. “All of us here are dog owners and dog lovers. There is nobody on this board who wants to see that dog put to sleep. Let’s get that right off the table,” he said.
Tension eased and the focus turned to an amicable resolution for the Garde family and Mr. Smith, who estimated his total damages from the attack at $968. Mr. Smith said overall egg production at his farm is down because the birds were traumatized.
“They haven’t come back yet because they’re so damn scared,” he said.
Tisbury animal control officer Laurie Clements cited a state law indicating Mr. Smith is eligible to receive triple damages for his losses because Storm had already been ordered restrained by Tisbury selectmen. But after brief discussion, Mr. Smith agreed to accept $1,000 in restitution from the Gardes to compensate for his loss.
Oak Bluffs animal control officer Heather Jaglowski noted it was not Storm’s first offense, and laid out a detailed plan for his removal from the Island. She said the dog will be kept at the town pound until the Gardes arrive with a letter from the dog’s new owners and information confirming the animal will be traveling off-Island.
Ms. Jaglowski said the dog would only be released one hour before the ferry departed the Island.
An attorney for the Gardes, Rosemarie Haigazian, told selectmen that Iris Vogel of New Rochelle, N.Y., had read about Storm in one of the Island newspapers and agreed to adopt him. “She has a seven-year-old husky who has had a similar situation . . . I don’t know how many chickens there are in New Rochelle, but she is willing to take the dogs,” Ms. Haigazian said.
Mr. Garde said the incident has been difficult for himself and his family.
“I’m sorry about all this happening. It’s been wicked expensive. We just want what is best for the dog,” he said.
The selectmen took up the matter of Mussa during a separate hearing. Ms. Jaglowski said a lesser punishment was appropriate for the eight-month-old female.
Rebecca Garde said her family circulated a petition asking that Mussa not be put down which netted almost 400 signatures. She also made an emotional plea to selectmen to spare her pet.
“If you told me one year ago that I would be standing her begging to get custody of a dog, I would have fallen over . . . but I underestimated the bond I have with her and how responsive she is to me and my daughter,” she said, adding: “I let [Mussa] down with respect to the care I left her in.”
Ms. Garde said she has signed up for training classes for Mussa, and is willing to build a secure enclosure for the dog. “I promise with everything inside of me to [make sure the dog is secured],” she said.
The most emotional moments of the hearing came from Susanna Sturgis, who before the incident did not know the Garde family or their dogs. Ms. Sturgis read a letter stating that her previous dog, Rhodry, was half Alaskan malamute, which is similar in many ways to a Siberian husky.
“Humans are trainable. When unexpected things happen, we learn to take better precautions, and when our dogs do harm we can make restitution and take steps toward avoiding recurrence,” Ms. Sturgis wrote. “If the dog is killed, then there are no other options, and we’ll never know what kind of dog Mussa might have grown up to be. I hope you will give this dog a chance to teacher her family what they need to know.”
The separate votes to spare Storm and Mussa were unanimous.